Is Moldova to Become a Home Front for Ukraine’s Armed Forces?

Home / Analytics / Is Moldova to Become a Home Front for Ukraine’s Armed Forces?
Sergiu CEBAN
The transfer of new types of weapons will require expanding the geography of the logistics circuit to support the needs of the Ukrainian army
International diplomacy’s attempts to bring Moscow and Kyiv to the negotiating table in autumn proved unsuccessful. Both capitals have taken uncompromising positions, pushing the conflict to the next level of escalation. Russia has been building up its forces in various regions along its border with Ukraine over recent months, without abandoning its intentions to launch another decisive strike. The Ukrainian authorities, expecting a Russian attack, have been increasingly loudly demanding increased military assistance from their allies, not only to defend themselves, but also to make a counter-offensive push. The saddest thing for us is that further growth of conflict in the region will increasingly draw the states surrounding Ukraine into this irreconcilable confrontation. However, Kyiv is not cutting corners on diplomacy: a Ukrainian “peace formula” is being carefully worked out together with foreign partners. It is known that a summit is planned for 24 February – the anniversary of the Russian invasion – where this formula will be presented to the public. In general terms it implies capitulation of Russia, withdrawal of its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine within the 1991 borders, as well as reparations and a special war crimes tribunal. Moscow, meanwhile, makes counter demands, namely the handover of the regions controlled by the AFU, that were annexed by Russia last autumn. Given the insurmountable clash, peace talks can only be restarted with a radical change in the status quo on the front, which can only happen as a result of large-scale military action. Therefore, experts are trying to figure out when and where the next general battle will take place, and who will be the first to make a move. The main sign of the start of the winter military campaign can be seen in the fact that since mid-January the front line, especially in the southern and central parts, has been in motion. The Russian forces are trying to seize the initiative and gain a foothold in more favorable positions. In addition to the ground component, the Russian military continues to “crack down” on Ukraine’s air defense system to maximize damage to Ukraine’s critical infrastructure through missile and drone strikes. While the last such attack on 14 January was not as massive as previous ones (when nuclear power plants were shut down and blackouts hit larger parts of the country), this time the damage is said to have been more severe. One of the main reasons was said to be the use of other types of missiles, which the Ukrainian air defense is not yet able to handle. Another focus of the Russian military machine’s efforts is the Donetsk front, where the situation has heated up noticeably. The Bakhmut area, where the Wagner Group is operating jointly with the Russian Armed Forces, stands out in particular. The Russians have been unable to capture the city for more than six months, so attempts are being made to encircle it operationally in order to break the first line of Ukrainian defense and reach the outskirts of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. There is also notable activity around Vuhledar, which is an important bridgehead for both the Ukrainian counter-offensive and Russian advance deep into the Ukrainian defensive redoubts in Donbass. One must admit that Moscow’s resource potential is still much greater than Ukraine’s. So the Kremlin expects that a prolonged conflict of attrition will sooner or later force Ukraine to start negotiating at least a temporary ceasefire. It is therefore crucial for Kyiv to concentrate its striking fist in the coming months and seize the initiative, demonstrating with military successes the justification of both existing and future Western investments. Allies’ arms deliveries, especially their intensity and volume, will clearly play a major role in the outcome. The growing threat of a massive Russian offensive forces Western politicians, albeit with difficulty, to overcome internal barriers to sending certain types of weapons to Ukraine. Having exhausted the Soviet-time weapons and equipment, the West now faces a serious dilemma: either to abandon Kyiv to its fate or to move on to providing NATO-type military equipment. A regular meeting of the Ramstein Group on January 20 revealed disagreements in the ranks of the military coalition over supplies of heavy offensive weaponry (first of all, tanks) to Ukraine. However, the compromise was eventually found, after which Kyiv stated its need for military aviation supplies. The latter, judging by the overall dynamics, is only a matter of time. The first batches of tanks may arrive in Ukraine as early as spring. But in general, this delivery is just a precedent, paving the way for other NATO-standard armaments. It will probably prompt Moscow to speed up its offensive plans so that Kyiv will not have time to activate the new weaponry. Despite the Kremlin’s undisguised annoyance, Washington does not believe that the transfer of several dozen tanks is a reason for escalation. Also, a message was sent through Victoria Nuland that the U.S. is ready to ease sanctions if Moscow shows its willingness to engage in serious talks. Military experts argue, supplying heavy weapons will fundamentally change the nature and scale of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, with the potential to evolve into a full-fledged continental war. Expanding the theater of war will most likely change the geography of Ukraine’s rear support. Therefore, apart from Poland and Slovakia, such a circuit could include Romania and Moldova. The need to transport and supply the Ukrainian military through our country, as well as to station military equipment, ammunition and repair bases on our territory explains the regular participation of Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii in Ramstein meetings. As the Ukrainian ambassador to Chisinau said the other day, Moldova is gradually turning into a very convenient hub for Ukraine. Most likely, this is not only about migration flows, but also about critical transit corridors, which can be used to settle both trade-economic and military-logistical tasks. In this regard, it is worth paying attention to the fact that one of Maia Sandu’s trusted confidants has been in Ukraine for several months now as part of one of the UN structures. Vladislav Kulminsky’s appearance in Kyiv, not on a short-term mission, indicates that very serious issues directly related to the military events in the neighboring country are handled at the level of the Moldovan and Ukrainian authorities.